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Ask me about archery, longbows especially.

Discussion in 'Research' started by John McDonell, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    You could fire multiple arrows... but uhm, no, not accurately.

    String silencers would be a must for this sort of application, assuming they are sneaking in tight to perimeter patrols. Longbows tend to be quieter than compounds, but still, silencing them when your life is on the line is a good idea.
  2. intipablo

    intipablo Scribe

    What do you know about the Ancient Mauryan Empires longbows? I read somewhere about them and I was wondering if any of you knew anything?
  3. Mr. Steve

    Mr. Steve Scribe

    I'm sure we know the adage "If you want to train a longbowman, start with his grandfather." However, what is the feasibility of training large numbers of infantry in basic archery with small bows?

    In my work in (perpetual) progress I have, of course, specialized foot archers that use a longbow-type bow; however, I have also issued small bows and a small number of arrows to the well-armored heavy infantry, allowing them to loose a few volleys while the lines close before the charge. All infantry in this army have received basic archery training, they are far from expert, but competent enough in the basics to have some effect on thinning the enemy ranks before the lines collide.

    So now I suppose the question is two-fold: 1) Is it feasible to mass train infantry in basic archery to make them at least functional archers in this limited capacity and 2) Are armored heavy infantry capable of effectively using bows, or will such equipment interfere with the motions? And hell, I suppose 3) How heavily can you armor archers before their armor gets in the way of the motions?

    Thanks in advance everyone.
  4. DMThaane

    DMThaane Sage

    The most obvious problems I see with this are logistics and training. Bows take a fair amount of training and if these smaller bows have weak draw weights they may struggle for distance and armour penetration. If they have heavy draws then being small won't take away from the need to build muscle. Time spent training with these bows is time not spent training with their melee weapons and learning how to fight and manoeuvre in formation. Bows will also need to be manufactured in large numbers, you'll need arrows, a lot of arrows. Your supply train will need to carry all these arrows. If these bows use arrows of a different length you've just introduced another complexity. Furthermore these soldiers will now have to carry and care for these bows and these arrows and fight while carrying them. They're likely to be resentful of that as they'll already be carrying and looking after a lot of equipment.

    That said, nothing is impossible in fantasy and you could certainly make it sound convincing enough for most readers. There are also historical equivalents you could consider. The Romans equipped their infantry with pila (which are basically a form of javelin) and later with weighted darts called plumbata and 10th century Byzantine war manuals recommend equipping every man with a sling. A benefit of slings is that plentiful ammunition can be found just lying on the ground.

    1) is possible but you'll need an archery culture that heavily incentivises studying the art, either for philosophical, social, or legal reasons. You'd probably want to recruit primarily from higher classes of society for your infantry, as they'd have more spare time to practice multiple arts. This would likely be true even if you have a devoted military class. 2) is a little outside my area but while armour may reduce the draw weight you'd be capable of drawing I don't see decently designed armour preventing use of a bow, especially not in a culture that prized it so high. 3) again, a little outside my area but I suspect that if you're too heavily armoured to even use a bow then you're too heavily armoured to actually fight. You're basically talking jousting armour at this point and that was never meant to see a war.
    Mr. Steve likes this.
  5. Russ

    Russ Istar

    Interesting questions. I agree with DM Thane about the logistical and cost problems, but vary a little bit on the technical aspects.

    It is not the size of the bow that really requires training, it is the pull. For indoor shooting I own a long bow, six foot in length that only pulls 40 lbs. It is not hard to train someone to use that bow competently enough for some short range shooting. Your problem then becomes time. If the enemy is charging you (particularly on horseback) they can close the distance pretty quick, and then you have to put away your bow and prepare your next weapon after you have loosed your "thinning" volleys...sounds hard. Woe betide you if you don't complete your weapons switch before the enemy makes contact.

    I forsee a problems carrying all this stuff into battle. If your heavy infantry has to carry their bow, plus quivers, plus all their melee weapons onto the field of battle, and then off the field of battle afterward that sounds like a lot of work and bulk to haul around. Plus who will maintain all their bows and their melee weapons in between battles. Normally a soldier does most of his own maintainance but as you add new classes of weapons you increase the demand for skills for each soldier, unless you have some sort of specialized or sophisticated maintainence system.

    Armour could get in the way of bow use. If you are in full plate armour it would be very hard. Anything that binds up your shoulders would be a problem, and any kind of closed or full face helmet could also be a problem. I think your breastplate could be a problem, but am not sure. Maybe I should try it at home. Gauntlets would definately be a problem in handling.

    Mixed roles are a tricky thing on the "combined arms" battlefield, and often, armies evolve towards having more specialists rather than multi-role fighting men. Lots to think about and discuss though.
    Mr. Steve likes this.
  6. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

    It depends on the bow. I think all have the possibility of being loud or quiet, without silencers of course. One recurve I shot with for a couple of years was quite silent even without a silencer. Some however I have shot are loud, very loud in fact.
  7. rlswink

    rlswink New Member

    I have a question. If someone gets shot in the right shoulder with a basic arrow how long it would take to heal if it didn't hit anything major?
  8. Malik

    Malik Auror

    Literally, forever. It's like getting shot in the knee.

    Everything in the shoulder is major.

    I hunt big game with a 55-lb. recurve and hand-made arrows. A wooden arrow with a steel tip will shatter the shoulder on a large deer or small bear -- 200-250 lbs., and a bone much heavier than a human's shoulder -- and then exit the body cavity on the other side, landing in the bushes several yards away. On a human, a broken scapula is crippling, and a shattered scapula requires hours of surgery with modern medicine -- screws and wire and pins.

    A broadhead (your "basic arrow") is built to sever arteries and tendons and makes a horrific wound. Arrows spin in flight -- the fletchings are not stabilizers; arrows fly straight because of gyroscopic forces -- and they drill into flesh. The resulting wound channel is sufficient to pass a golf ball through.

    As we discussed in the first thread linked above, if you sever the acromiothoracic artery or hit the brachial plexus -- which are about as far apart as the opposing radii of a baseball, and again, look at that wound channel -- your target is dead. If you miss all of that, you will likely shatter the scapula, and if a bone fragment gets driven into the lungs or a major artery -- and the scapula can explode under an arrow like shooting an air rifle at a dinner plate -- cancel Christmas.

    If you graze the target on the meat of the shoulder -- the medial head of the deltoid, well outside of the joint itself -- then it's a handful of stitches and a pain in the ass for a few weeks. Hit that joint, though, and your target is crippled at best.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
    Russ likes this.
  9. HiddenVale

    HiddenVale Dreamer

    What would be the most ideal kinds of durable wood for crafting longbows?
  10. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Traditionally English longbows were made of Yew. It's a good wood for a bow, but the reason it was used primarily is because it was also plentiful.

    I have uncles who make their own bows and arrows for hunting. They're craftsmen far beyond my ability, but I do know they use Osage Orange to make their bows. In modern times, when we can get whatever materials we want, they chose Osage Orange. I don't know the specifics as to why, but I'm willing to bet there are benefits to Osage Orange.
  11. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

    Is it physically possible to shoot from a bow or a crossbow from a flying mount?

    If the flying mount is a giant eagle for example.

    Would the mount be too fast to shoot anything or not?
    Horses are fast too and horse archery requires quickness.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  12. jedellion

    jedellion Acolyte

    Hi There.
    I make and shoot traditional English/Welsh longbows and am a qualified archery cach for Archery GB. My sons are also archers and my youngest is soon to be one of the youngest archery coaches in Britain at 15 years old.

    Feel free to ask me if there is no one else around although the thread originator covered the basics really well.
  13. jedellion

    jedellion Acolyte

    Italian yew was best. Ironically most 'English' Longbows were made from Italian yew.
  14. jedellion

    jedellion Acolyte

    Probably not with any degree of accuracy other than the right general dirction. I teach archery courses over six weeks. Occasionally an archer will get good enogh to grop arrows in the gold. but that's with a recurve bow with sights. With a trad bow you could get them to shoot with a half decent technique in two days, but their muscle use would be underdeveloped and they would not be able to draw any decent strength bow. And bear in mind arm muscles have nothing to do with drawing a bow. Sheer arm strength means nothing.

    Also learning to aim with a longbow with any accuracy takes a long time and rquires muscle memory to be developed.
  15. jedellion

    jedellion Acolyte

    There were a few methods. generally you could use hot coals held in a little latice frame that could set fire to straw, cloth etc.
    Cltoh wrapped arrows treated withpitch or oil were used but only at short range and they tend to go out very quickly.

  16. jedellion

    jedellion Acolyte


    Big issue her eis that, generally when you are shooting at long range, you are shooting in an arc. If I'm shooting at 100 yads I sight on the target then I angle upwards around 35 degrees to get my arc of fire so my arrow is pointing at the sky.

    The best you can do at long ranges is train youe body to learn the rnages and angles. It becomes instinctive and you just.... do it. Now a more powerful bow would have a shallower arc, but realistically if you need enhaced vision to see the target, the arrow is going be arcing hard.
  17. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    Hi Pendragon,

    You're trying a form of an arcane archer? If so I would probably change the second rune to maybe include some sort of eyesight / focus, but also something to do with the steadiness of the arm / body. That's going to be critical for accuracy. Maybe the third rune might be something to do with sensing air currents etc through the coordination of senses so wind isn't an issue. Maybe the fourth could be speed, so the snake killer can pull, nock, draw and release an arrow twice as fast as normal.

    Cheers, Greg.
  18. yli

    yli Acolyte

    Fun fact: The Manchu people (who had phenomenally powerful composite bows), didn't bother to sharpen their standard, all-purpose war arrow. Instead, the edges were merely flattened, like you would a garden trowel. The arrows were intended to pulverize flesh and bone instead of cutting it, and to reduce the incidences of pass-throughs, since arrows were often in excess of 40 inches (1m) long and would do more to immobilize the target if left inside of it. Despite having unsharpened arrows, Manchu archers were able often able to shoot through two people at once. IfI have my archers in my story shoot through two people at once on a regular basis, readers would struggle to believe it.

    "The Manchus had long emphasized mounted archery... ...when they first established their state their archery was as follows: they used bows of eight li draw weight [approx. 106 pounds]... ...whatever they hit, they pierced, and they could even transfix two men with some power to spare.”- From the Qingbao leichao 清稗類鈔 "Categorized Anthology of Petty Matters from the Qing Period".
  19. DFWriterX

    DFWriterX Dreamer

    Wow! Many thanks for this thread! I've always wanted to learn archery but never did however would like to mention it in my stories so this thread really helps me out alot!! :)
  20. Wiglaf

    Wiglaf Dreamer

    Great article, John - so useful! Specialist knowledge like this is invaluable to those of us who don't practice the old skills. Thanks for sharing. Your piece is bookmarked, and will surely be used as a resource for many up and coming stories. Don't suppose you know anything about blacksmithing ..? (LOL)

    Attached Files:


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